Attempts to Gain Coordination
The first attempt seems to have been made in 1926, when regulations under the Board of Trade Act, later incorporated in the Motor Omnibus Traffic Act of 1926, gave local bodies power to control and, in effect, to limit the competition of omnibuses against tramway services. There was an advisory council for a short time in 1929, which ceased to function when Parliament did not pass the empowering measure. The crisis in the public finances, to which the railways largely contributed by their inability to pay the full assessed interest on their working capital, resulted in the passing of the Transport Licensing Act in 1931. This measure aimed to limit entry to the road-transport industry in order to give some protection to the State railways. In 1933 a Transport Coordination Board of three members was formed to coordinate, as far as possible, road, sea, and rail transport. The Board tried to take a broad view of the transport industry, but its powers were inadequate and it had many critics to whom “coordination” apparently meant the elimination of competitors. The new Labour Government, which got rid of the Board in 1936, apparently accepted the idea of integration as a long-term goal. By 1939 many long-distance goods and passenger services competing with the railways had been taken over by the Railways Department. After the war coordination again became an issue of importance and a Transport Development Committee, under the aegis of the Organisation for National Development, held meetings until 1948, in which year legislation empowered the formation of a Transport Coordination Council. The new body held its only meeting late in 1949, for in the following year it was put out of existence by the National Government. It was announced that it would be replaced by committees of men who understood the local conditions; they would therefore advise on any specific transport problems. Many committees were appointed to consider problems, some of which had no relation whatever to the broad problem of the coordination and inter-relation of the various forms of transport. In 1953 the Minister implied in the annual report of the Transport Department that there was no need for any coordinating body, hinting that this was the function of the 11 road transport licensing authorities. In 1955, in 1959, and in 1962 two committees of members of Parliament in the Government party considered general transport problems which apparently could not be handled by the existing administrative machinery. In 1958 the Minister of Railways set up an interdepartmental committee to consider the whole subject of coordination. The report of this committee has not yet been released.
The bewildering variety of attempts to devise machinery to solve what might be termed the normal problems of transport (including coordination) are the inevitable result of inadequate departmental administrative structure. Many of the matters considered by the numerous committees would have been dealt with more effectively by a Department of State responsible for all forms of transport. This is the practice in many other and larger countries. The problems, however, will remain in New Zealand as long as transport administration is fragmented.
by Norman Frederick Watkins, M.COM., Research Officer, Transport Department, Wellington.